Monday, August 10, 2015

nothing super groundbreaking

If anyone is interested in the continuing MTC Bat Saga, our last day of classes before we headed out there was one in (on?) the wall outside our classroom so we couldn't go in for a while. The bat refused comment, but the police officer who was preventing us from going any closer said he thought there might be a bat cave under the MTC, so there's your official source on the matter.

Oh yeah, so I'm in Russia. The airport/plane experience was only a little harrowing, the worst was definitely the domestic airport in Moscow. We were all super jet-lagged and had no idea where anything was. I would have gone and asked people for directions, but I caught some virus that was going around the last few days at the MTC that made me lose my voice. On the flight from New York to Moscow I sat next to this cool Moldovan guy who turned out to be the pastor of a Romanian Baptist congregation in Florida. That was interesting. The seven of us arrived in Samara just fine with all our stuff, and most of us slept on the floor of the sisters' flat in the middle of Samara. The next day,Wednesday, we all got together and they told us some stuff, gave us our companions, and sent us off. My companion is sister Wilson, and I definitely creeped on her mission blog before I came out. Heh. She's excellent. She looks a lot like me, actually, only with hair at least twice as long. No, I don't have pictures. My camera's probably floating around somewhere, but I haven't taken any anyway. Next week, I promise.  So that night we just worked around Samara, taught a second lesson to someone, but it got way derailed and honestly I'm not too sure what happened. Also side note there's only 55 missionaries in the mission right now, which was surprising, I was expecting around 70. Weird.

We're in Kazan! It's around 8 hours north of  Samara by car, so we actually left on Thursday afternoon, with the sisters who were heading to Tolliatti. This also meant we stayed another day at an apartment in the other area in Samara, with two other companionships. A little cramped. Russia really didn't look as foreign as I expected, driving through. If I didn't know it was Russia, and minus the billboards in Russian, I could have believed it was Wyoming or somewhere. Except with occasional fields of sunflowers stretching for miles. Kazan is actually gorgeous. I understand it's a popular tourist destination. There's tons of mosques and orthodox temples. People are also really nice. Not that I know yet how not nice Russians usually are to strangers on the street, but people actually seem to want to talk to us and randomly give us fruit on the bus and stuff, and they often have conversations with us even if they are absolutely not interested. And my companion was shocked at the niceness, so that was pretty telling. Only about three people have just told us we're a cult and a sect (what do they mean by that?) and left. That probably means we're not talking to enough people. A lot of people assume we're Jehovah's Witnesses or spies. I actually understand a lot of what's going on, miracle of miracles. I have a very hard time participating in conversations, though. Often I understand all the words people are saying but not what the sentence means, or I get what they're saying but I have no idea what they really said. I'm not sure how that works, actually. I just talk so dang slowly. We're reopening the area here, but there've been elders in the south area the whole time. We actually had a lesson with a member (and two drunk men...) present our first night, so that was a good way to start out.

Surprising things: you actually can get milk in bottles, not bags, and we do. But mayonnaise comes in bags. whoa. That one caught me off guard. Also our apartment is weirdly really nice. And suspiciously many things are covered in a mysteriously sticky film, I don't think anyone's lived there for a while. We have basically no dishes, so we're being creative, but we don't have much time today to go find things. Also we have a large TV which we will never use. We've been trying to figure out how to clean things without really much cleaning supplies, too.

I had my first run-in with the authorities on Saturday. We had to buy tickets to Tolliatti for zone conference, which is tomorrow, so we had to go to the big bus station in center to get the tickets. Turns out we needed our passports out to get the tickets, so afterwards we retreated to an empty corner of the bus station to discreetly (and probably sketchily, I realize now) replace our passports into our clothes, and we turned around to find ourselves confronted by three young officers. They weren't satisfied with just photocopies of our documents, so we had to make some calls and try to argue without arguing with them. So much fun.  They also wanted to take a look at our literature (go for it. read it all. take it home to your families. please.) It was probably less than an hour, though, and we didn't end up being taken anywhere. It's a good thing that sister Wilson is really good at Russian and quite talkative and also a babe, and that the officers all appeared to be in their early twenties or it would have been much worse. So yeah, guess who's taken a selfie with Russian police? Also one of them we sent off with a Book of Mormon, so who knows? Also we actually have to go to Samara, which is way farther away today for complicated boring reasons, so we didn't really need the tickets. Heh.

The branch here is great. There are some girls around our age who are willing to help us do stuff, so that's sweet, and I think I've been adopted by a nine-year-old girl who has someone's missionary tag with her name written on (also no, we don't wear our tags, and I'm actually quite fine with that. But we can wear them in the branch building). I mostly don't know what she's saying because she talks high and fast, but I gather that she loves the sisters. Also, we amazingly had two random people we met on the street in church with us. That's apparently not typical for Russia. One of them is definitely more interested in sister Wilson than anything else, though, and that's typical for Russia. But the other one was a little miraculous and we were kind of thrilled.

The other day we accidentally woke up an hour early and didn't realize until about three and a half hours later. That was a long day. The sun rises early and shines in our windows, okay. Also Kazan is in a different time zone from Samara, so maybe that was it. Still kind of embarrassing. Also at dusk the mosquitoes come out and I am itchy everywhere. But generally it's fun, and people are nice, and the people we work with are really cool. I might have a handle on Russian at some future point. The weather is lovely.

I'm probably leaving so much out, but you can use your imagination. The part of Kazan we're in is like a lot of east coast American cities only more spread out, and more stray cats.

All the love in the world,

Sister Nielsen

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